Tuesday, October 02, 2007

Chuck on NBC

I've now see two episodes of NBC's new show Chuck. I was eagerly awaiting the pilot episode because I'd read so much about it when I was researching posts for The TV Show Blog.

The pilot was interesting and fun. The characters were introduced in rather normal ways, and overall I was looking forward to the next episode. In fact, I watched it again on a repeat on SciFi Channel on Sunday night. But after watching the second episode, I'm not sure how I feel about the show as a whole.

I only had a few basic negative reactions:
1. Why is it that if the main character is a nerd, the only way to make them likeable seems to be to make their best friend a BIGGER nerd. The more their best friend fits the stereotype, the more we are supposed to like the main character. I don't dislike Chuck's best friend Morgan. But I want him to be a more filled out character, and to stop pandering to every stereotype.

2. I was set up not to like Sarah by an interview with the creators. They basically said that Sarah was perfect and wonderful, but nobody wants perfect and wonderful so they gave her a flaw: she can't cook. When you could have worked so much with her angst over Bryce, the fact that it seems like they were more than partners, her devotion to the CIA...there are so many more things that could be interesting. They hinted at a duality to her character, but they never really explored it. Maybe they will later. The not-cooking is played for laughs, and it's so old it annoys. Also, if Sarah can't cook, who made the soufflé?

3. I know it's petty, but Ellie's hair in the second episode is just...bad. It's very very distracting, you can barely see her eyes under there. I love her character, and the actress, and I can't take her seriously with that haircut.

4. There is a dangerous slope they're walking on with Chuck. It is the same slope that shows like this always have to worry about: you have to get Chuck to learn and adapt with his circumstances, without making him become so competent that your show stops being about the bumbling geek who is pretending to be a spy. Better shows have fallen victim to it, making their main characters stay too stupid for too long. I worry about Chuck.

5. The spy stuff isn't as well written as it could be. I understand the premise, that even in a situation like that, Chuck's nerd knowledge can save the day, instead of his "government secret" knowledge. But they're having to stretch so hard to make that work sometimes. They are clearly just making up technology, and that makes it hard for people in the know to enjoy the series. The NSA incinerator? No, sorry. The bad CG of the tracker in the radio of the Nerd Herd car? That was just terrible. Also, all the talk of "secrets" is getting old. I've never heard a government operative say "SECRETS!" in that type of context. They would say intelligence, information, data, what have you. But not secrets. Because it's not a secret to them, is it?

Positive thoughts:
1.. I was so happy that Casey began to have a real character in the second episode, and at the end he seemed to actually be changing and evolving as a character. Which is what all good television characters do. Adam Baldwin is too good an actor to waste on a "cold stone killer" who doesn't grow as a person.

2. While the action and spy sequences falter, the comedic pieces and the stories about Buy More are classic. Big Mike is one of my favorite characters in the show, and it's not just because I worked retail and my store manager was named Mike.

3. The moment when Chuck helped Casey figure out where the bad guy took Sarah was actually really good, and an example how to make Chuck save the day without having super knowledge. Chuck flying the helicopter? Not so much. Actually, I much rather would have had Casey talk Chuck through the copter landing than Sarah. She ended up sounding patronizing. Casey could have easily had the line about video games, then we could have found out that he actually played flight sims or something.

4. There are nods being thrown out to nerds left and right, from Lost references to video games. I like shows that can subtly embrace pop culture without dating themselves too much. Also, their use of music is actually very good.

5. Two words: Captain AWESOME.

I'll keep watching the show, but only because right now they've had one good episode and one mediocre one. Everybody misses the mark sometimes.